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How to make the most of direct mail marketing in a recession

How to make the most of direct mail marketing in a recession

Carol Wright, Pitney Bowes’ direct marketing manager, dispenses tips on getting more out of your direct mail activities in tough times
Thinking about cutting back on your mail marketing as the recession deepens? Think again. An effective strategy for reaching customers could see you through.

Direct mail is an essential marketing channel for virtually any business seeking to build relationships with both existing and prospective customers.
During tough economic times, these relationships are even more critical. Getting out timely mailings with new destinations and offers is vital. And at a time when consumers may be cutting back on holiday spend, it is more important than ever to talk to your best customers and find new ones.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that direct mail is just for major players however; we must recognise that even the smallest operators among our client base can use mail to build their businesses – despite the difficult economic climate.
Here are some tips for companies seeking to get more out of their mail marketing while watching costs.
1. Keep investing
During tough economic times, the temptation is to sit tight, cut back and wait for the crisis to blow over. Cutting marketing activities such as mailing may seem like an easy solution, but experience from companies that have weathered previous economic downturns suggests that investing in marketing during these times is a way to grow your business.
An analysis of the Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies (PIMS) database presented at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising conference in March 2008 found that companies that maintained their marketing budgets during a recession gained an additional 1.3% of market share on average during the recovery period.
2. Improve targeting
Data on prospective customers is becoming cheaper to buy and easier to integrate into marketing programmes than ever before, so there is little excuse for not being better targeted and achieving higher response rates from mailings.
Data on consumers who use travel services can be analysed and segmented with precision and mailings personalised to a fine degree.
And good consumer data – either for targeting new business or to enhance customer databases – is not just the preserve of the largest companies. Nowadays, data can be bought in smaller volumes or on a pay-as-you-use basis and database software solutions are available off the shelf. 
However, a word of caution: firms intent on despatching clumsy bulk mailings, hoping their brand will benefit, will quickly come unstuck. Recipients expect direct mail to be relevant, and marketers must realise that poorly targeted mail can damage a brand or a customer relationship.
3. Employ the best mail technology
Mailroom technology today makes it easier to put together better and more cost-effective marketing mailers.
Automation of the mail operation has enabled many businesses to cut costs and eliminate errors while freeing staff to focus on core activities. Folding, inserting and franking technology continues to develop in line with today’s increasingly liberalised postal market to offer users choice and convenience.
Postage can make up a sizeable portion of the cost of most mail campaigns. With postal rates frequently changing, employing the latest intelligent franking machines, which link to the web to provide downloadable postal rates and software rates, is key for smaller players. Just last year Royal Mail announced a 2p discount for First and Second Class franked mail.
4. Use transactional mail
Another way to get the most out of mail and cut costs is to use transactional mailings to carry marketing messages as well.
The increase in maximum weight for a standard letter sent via Royal Mail from 60g to 100g three years ago created an unprecedented opportunity to do more marketing through transactional mail, but many businesses have failed to take advantage of this.
With the mailing of itineraries, confirmations, tickets, statements and other administrative communications, there is huge scope to include brochures, special offers and other marketing messages at no additional cost.
5. Track and measure campaigns
In a recession, it becomes even more important to be able to prove return on investment (ROI) and justify any marketing spend.
Direct mail results can be more accurately measured than advertising campaigns and most other promotional activity. A company knows how many mailings it sent out and to whom – and how many and who responded.
Before sending out a mailer, make sure mechanisms are in place so that responses can be easily tracked and measured. This data can then be fed into the planning of the next campaign so that adjustments can be made for subsequent mailings – resulting in higher ROI and, overall, more cost-effective marketing.

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